Thursday, May 3, 2012

Micro Review [Film]: Gog

The Meat

Gog begins with some scientists in an underground lab killing a monkey by freezing it to death. Boo, scientists. But then they bring the monkey back to life by thawing it out. Yay, scientists! But then, something mysterious lures the scientists into the freezing chamber one by one, and freezes them to death. Boo, silent killer. This is when the strapping Dr. David Sheppard ("shepherd," this is important) arrives from Washington and takes up residence in the underground science lab to investigate these killings. But the killings aren't done...not by a long shot. By the time things are said and done, we'll have killer radioactive plants, killer audio tones, gymnasts, flamethrowers (yes! multiple flamethrowers!), and killer robots (naturally).

I have to say, though, and I don't think I'm really giving anything away here, if your name is "Sheppard," and you meet two robots named Gog and Magog, Biblical names used as blanket references to the enemies of God, you gotta figure those guys are up to no good. An investigator more literate in archetypes may have been able to avert a lot of needless bloodshed.

There is a lot to like about Gog but it is a particularly interesting movie to consider at the current moment in film history. First, it was shot in 3D in 1954, but by the time it came out much of the fever for 3D had died down, and the bubble had mostly burst -- just like today. So even in its original run, most people saw Gog in 2D. Second, a screenwriter friend recently said to me "If I were giving anybody advice on how to make a bunch of money selling a script, I'd tell them to write a contained thriller." If you're not hip to parlance of the times, a "contained thriller" is something scary or freaky that takes place in basically a single location. There's a guy in a coffin with only a cell phone, and that's the movie. Or, there's a dude in a phone booth and if he steps out of it, somebody will shoot him. Or, a couple stops at an ATM to get some money, but can't leave the ATM lobby because somebody will kill them. Or, somebody farts in a car, but their windows are stuck and they just have to sit there in it and suffer. You get the idea. Gog could easily be considered a contained thriller, taking place almost entirely in the underground science lab, but it's probably a lot better than the other movies I just mentioned. Especially that last one.

The Math

Objective Quality: 6/10 and the print currently in circulation is fairly exceptional.

Bonuses: +1 for attempting to get the science right. I'm not going to say they nailed it (I'm looking at you, radioactive plant sequence), but they did a heck of a lot better than This Island Earth; +1 for being out of circulation for decades, but now being readily available on DVD and Netflix Instant; +1 for the interesting mix of sci-fi with straight-up Cold War politics. It's not a metaphor for the Cold War, it actually goes there.

Penalties: -1 for how long it takes to get going after the scientists are freeze-dried in the opening. It gets relatively glacial for about 30 minutes. You have been pun'd.

Cult Value Coefficient: 8/10

[See explanation of our non-inflated scores here.]